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PROJECT LOG Alien PC Build

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Nightsword

New Member
Joined
Oct 24, 2016
Hi all, this is my first custom fabrication build. My goal was a smaller, unobtrusive PC with a clean and simple no-frills exterior and with a weathered industrial interior that reflects the atmosphere of the Alien movies. For this, I started with the NZXT s340 case in black, gutted it, and fabricated replacement internals.

The alien facehugger and eggs were from a toy collection which come in just a bland solid color. The treatments I used for most of the components are acrylic base paint, ink washing, dry brushing, and then gloss varnish.

I soon found that the acrylic paint on the facehugger begins to break down in the water even when fully cured, so I used Silicone Conformal Coating to water seal it. I also used the Silicone Conformal Coating for a very wet appearance in some areas of the other components. This makes an amazing wet look, but I came to find that it also appears as a completely dry powder under UV light, so in the end I had to minimize the use of UV light to only the RAM, within which I applied UV reactive paint to insert strips.

There are several stages of LEDs, each stage powered by an LED controller. Because individually wired 12v LEDs waste most of the energy through the resistors, I instead made each stage a series of LEDs with a low resistor value. With so many LEDs in this application, this somewhat reduces the energy use and heat, as well as permits the use of low power Bourns linear potentiometers to adjust the brightness of groups of LEDs.

There are two LED switches, one switch for a subtle glowing effect and one switch for the beacon effect and strobe effect to simulate the self-destruct countown scenes in the Alien movies. For the amber beacons used in those scenes, I used an LED controller wired to 8 LEDs spread over roughly 120 degrees, and the LEDs are runs in a sequence pattern. Then there are two separate stages of strobe LEDs, each somewhat randomly cycled.

For the illuminated CPU waterblock, I provided Performance PCs the Weyland Yutani logo with which they used to make the face plate. I then used a yellow gel filter for the yellow areas.

The floor of the lower level is stainless steel grating. The horizontal tube structure running along the back of the floor are scaled based on the Nostromo corridors.

All wires are individually sleeved in stainless steel. For the ATX main power wires, each is sleeved in small diameter stainless steel, and then fed into a fabricated manifold behind the reservoir which routes the wires into pairs of four into larger diameter stainless steel. These are then fed into another lower manifold. The lower manifold also routes four sets of 6+2 PCIE groups. Currently in use are just one 6 pin and one 6+2 pin for the single GTX 980ti video card. The stainless steel was then heavily ink washed for the weathered effect and then silicone conformal coated for the wet/oily look.

Case: NZXT s340 (Gutted)

System Components...
  • Motherboard: ASRock Fatal1ty X99 Professional Gaming i7 2011-v3 Intel X99
  • CPU: Intel Xeon E5 2689 V4 10 Core
  • Memory: 8x16GB G.SKILL Ripjaws 4 Series DDR4 3000 (PC4 24000) SDRAM
  • Video Card: EVGA GeForce GTX 980 Ti SC+ ACX 2.0+
  • Power Supply: Corsair AX760
Drives...
  • Primary Drive: Samsung 950 PRO 512GB M.2 NVM PCI-E 3.0 x4 SSD MZ-V5P512BW
  • Auxiliary Drive 1: SAMSUNG 850 PRO SERIES 1TB SSD SATA III 1TB
  • Auxiliary Drive 2: Seagate Hybrid STCL2000400 2TB MLC/8GB SATA 6.0Gb/s NCQ SSHD
  • Disc Drive: SAMSUNG Slim Portable Blu-ray Writer SE-506CB/RSBD
  • Portables: SanDisk Extreme Pro 128GB USB Flash
Fans...
  • CPU Fan: Noctua NF-A14 iPPC-3000 PWM 140mm PWM AAO Frame SSO2 Bearing
  • Case Fan: Noctua NF-A14 iPPC-3000 PWM 140mm PWM AAO Frame SSO2 Bearing
Water Cooling...
  • Reservoir: EK-XRES 140 DDC 3.2 PWM w/Pump + Multiport TOP
  • Radiator: Black Ice Nemesis 140GTS XFLOW Ultra Stealth Cross-Flow Low Profile
  • CPU Mounting Block: Swiftech APOGEE XL PPCS (Custom CNC Machined W/Y Logo)
  • Tubing: Monsoon Hardline Tube 1/2 x 5/8
  • Compression Fittings: Monsoon Free Center Hardline Compression (w/Fabricated copper inserts)
  • Angle Fittings: Monsoon 90° Rotary Angle
  • Fill/Drain Fittings: Koolance QD2 Male Quick Disconnect No-Spill Couplings
Peripherals...
  • Monitor: Samsung 4K 48" Curved 9000-Series SUHD
  • Mouse: Logitech MX Master Wireless
  • Keyboard: Logitech K800 Illumintated Wireless
  • CAD Device: 3DConnexion SpaceMouse Pro 3DX-700049 Wireless
OS: UEFI/GPT + Windows 10 Pro

(Note you'll see in the pics I hadn't yet rid the motherboard of the "Intel Inside" logo)

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With the interior complete, I'll consider concepts for the exterior.
 

don256us

Uber Folding Senior
Joined
Jul 17, 2003
:welcome:

Looks good. I would be interested in some shots of the machine in the light. It's hard to see some of the detail that you mention in these photos.
 
OP
N

Nightsword

New Member
Joined
Oct 24, 2016
Thank you.. Much of the goal was to maintain the same sense of mystery as the Alien movies, by limiting the light. So the approach was just as much about shining darkness as it was about shining light. I'll post up more photos and you'll see there's not really much to it without that sense of mystery. I'll also post a video of the LED effects.
 
OP
N

Nightsword

New Member
Joined
Oct 24, 2016
Here's a video that shows the 3 modes...

(Video removed - See updated video here)
 
Last edited:

SwartHack

Babysitter for OCF Lounge Day Care, Still a bad-as
Joined
Apr 3, 2015
Location
Planet Earth
Welcome Nightsword:welcome:

+1 on pics in light for details

Incredible build, cool theme, awesome props!
I'd be interested in more on how you fabricated/modded them.

Cheers
 
OP
N

Nightsword

New Member
Joined
Oct 24, 2016
Thank you everyone! More pics and info to come.

I've updated the timing of the lighting and added a fire effect under the lower level...

 
OP
N

Nightsword

New Member
Joined
Oct 24, 2016
Here's more info about this build..

20161109_185233.jpg

The goal for this project was something not large and obtrusive for in the office but also something interesting to see, so I chose the somewhat small NZXT s340 case. I gutted the interior and replaced all rivets with stainless hardware. I applied 20% window tint to the side panel.

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20161109_190307.jpg

I did not make the Xenomorph. It is a figure by Play Arts Kai. I just applied a mild paint wash and then silicone conformal coating to enhance the contrast and wet appearance. The eggs and facehugger were also figures but they were unpainted plastic, to which applied acrylic washes, dry brushing, and then gloss varnish. For the "roots" at the bottom of the eggs, I simply applied hot melt glue and then applied same paint methods. I was somewhat disappointed that the application of gloss varnish had diminished contrast of the dry brushing because the varnish caused the dry brushing to bleed. But the varnish did make for a more organic affect and overall it's fine. I hadn't done this sort of thing with paints before. I watched YouTube videos on figure painting techniques. I improvised with the silicone conformal coating and hot melt glue. I wasn't planning for the hot melt glue to actually work for the roots of the eggs. I was just experimenting with it for a few minutes and it turned out well enough, so I left it. Had I known it would work from the start, I'd have paid more attention while applying it, particularly I would have used less gobs higher up the eggs.

20161109_185726.jpg

For the lower level flooring, I originally wanted a grating to match the flooring of the Nostromo corridors but I couldn't find any metal grating scaled correctly. I also wanted to use metal because it's a structural component of the case to replace the original frame. I'm happy with the grating I settled on. It's not quite like the Nostromo corridors but it is sci-fi like and it's very sturdy, thick stainless. I applied an acrylic wash for the aged, oily look and silicone conformal coating for the wet look. It's bolted to the case along the back and sides with stainless fasteners. The front side is bolted to long vertical standoffs which are bolted to the bottom of the case. The leading edge is covered with L-channel.

The rear tubing along the back wall of the lower level is just ABS plastic pipe mounted through bases, the bases crudely cut from ABS block in the shape of those of the Nostromo corridors. A 3D printer would have have been nice to bring out more detail of the bases. I painted the bases silver and then acrylic wash and silicone conformal coating. Each base is mounted from underneath to the floor with two allen screws, with flat channel sandwiched in between.

Here's a photo of the original Nostromo corridors for comparison. It's not as "wet" as I ended up with, but I wanted the look of organic overgrowth...
nostromo-corridor.jpg


20161109_190718.jpg

The wires of the main power connector to the motherboard and PCI-E wires to the video card are each routed within stainless steel. These are actually "tube bending springs". The main power connector wires are fed into a manifold cut from ABS block, which distributes the wires in groups of four fed into larger tube bending springs, down to a lower manifold below, which also distributes the individual PCI-E wires to the video card. This view is from the back side, the wire sleeves are unpainted on this side.

Not shown here is the base of the reservoir, fabricated of aluminum to help with cooling the motor. It's mounted to anti-vibration standoffs. For extra durability, the top of the reservoir is also fixed to an upper mount with anti-vibration standoffs.

20161109_185543.jpg

On the rear panel, I've added two three-way switches to turn on the LEDs and added six linear potentiometers to adjust the brightness of the LED channels. I wired the LEDs in groups in series with low ohm resisters for efficiency at 12v. Each group assigned an LED controller and then to Bourns linear potentiometers to adjust the brightness, although I've found that brightness adjustment isn't really needed, except for the CPU block LEDs. I used hot melt to glue the LEDs to the housing and then painted black over the glue.

Much of the goal was to maintain the same sense of mystery as the Alien movies, by limiting the light. So the approach was just as much about shining darkness as it was about shining light. Here's some of the methodologies I sort of adopted along the way...

-Use warm white LEDs for revealing organics, industrially contrasted with cool white LEDs particularly on non-organic structures.

-Create contrast by limiting the overlap of light sources on surfaces and projecting at an angle which emphasizes texture and shadow in the surface. The optimal light angle for surface contrast is generally within perpendicular to the viewer.

-Hide the light sources so they don't detract from scene.

-These methods also work together to create a sense of spaciousness in what's really a very small space. This serves the ultimate goal of the project to create a scaled down sense of spaciousness and mystery within a very small space.

Other than the LEDs, it's a pretty simple setup. There's really not much else to it. Total weight is 38.5 lbs. Maybe down the road I'd use a microcontroller to control of the LEDs and a speaker cycled with the Alien ambiance sound and then a button-activated self destruct countdown sequence. Although I have other projects to move on to, so this will likely wait a while.

On a side note, when I completed this project I was unaware others were into doing custom fabrication. I then came across an amazing Alien themed PC case, by Ron Lee Christianson. I can't wait to see that one completed.
 

SwartHack

Babysitter for OCF Lounge Day Care, Still a bad-as
Joined
Apr 3, 2015
Location
Planet Earth
Nice explanations of the process! Obviously, you have some art skills and nicely applied to a sweet custom build.